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Brand and shopping advice

Why we love Veja (and think you should too)

Why we love Veja (and think you should too)
Photographed: Veja V10 Suede Trainers (£115), Veja V10 Leather Trainers (£115)

The first question many people have about Veja isn’t about its ethical credentials or where it’s stocked. It’s usually over pronunciation. ‘Veja’, which means ‘look’ in Portuguese rhymes with ‘déjà’ in ‘déjà vu’. And, according to the company manifesto, “it means look through your sneakers, look at what’s behind.”

That, after all, is how the brand started. In the early 2000s, business school graduates Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion were travelling the world, consulting for French firms on their sustainability practices. What they found was disheartening – as was the indifference with which their report was met by the corporations.

So in 2004, aged 25, the friends decided to launch Veja. They did so with just €5,000 and – clichéd as it sounds – the belief that they could make a difference. As the pair put it: “Changing the world has become a buzz word. Even Google or Amazon use it every day. So instead of trying to change the world and the people in it, we stick to what we believe in: being even more transparent, improving the consistency of our project and making solutions happen. And instead of trying to convince everybody, we start with ourselves.”

Taking inspiration from their own wardrobes, they decided to start with something that appears in everyone's wardrobe: the trainer. Or what the guys called “the most symbolic object of our generation.”

Central to their business plan was the knowledge that “when you buy a pair of sneakers from a big brand, 70 per cent of its costs goes to advertising and communication. And only 30 per cent goes to raw materials and production.” Kopp and Morillion wanted to shake things up.

To that end, the company chose to manufacture in Brazil where there is a good supply of wild rubber and organic cotton. It helped that they also found a factory in the south of Brazil, Porto Alegre, where the workers are paid fairly and work reasonable hours. The vast majority of the workers are even unionised.

When the duo tell their origin story, they say: “We thought if we gave up advertising, we could make sneakers that were five times more expensive to produce, yet still offer them at the same retail price as the big brands.”

For Thread stylist Freddie, it’s that combination of a strong brand story and a retro aesthetic that has him excited about Veja landing on the site. “There’s a nice, vintage tennis shoe vibe that’s matched with the well-crafted feel of something like Common Projects,” he says. “But it’s got that extra level of style and the colourways are really strong.”

And as he points out, anyone who wears trainers – not just as gym shoes, but as part of their style  – will find a model for them in this collection. “Whether you have 20 pairs of trainers in rotation, or just one pair to go with everything, these Veja shoes will fit into your life. They fulfil the role of minimal sneakers, but they have a little bit more to them.”

Freddie’s advice? Get in there quick. “They’re still relatively unknown so if you don’t want to be jumping on the bandwagon too late, now’s the time.”

Shop all Veja


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Chris Howlett
Styling: Freddie Kemp